The Great Gatsby is one of the most important works of literature ever written, a book thats power has remained intact and its aura has perhaps only increased in time. A favourite of mine and millions of others, a new adaptation is looming and we can only hope this time the novel is brought to life and done justice by director Baz Luhrmann and the fine cast assembled.
Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925 the book tells the story of Jay Gatsby and his mysterious wealthy life through the experience of Nick Carraway as he is drawn into Gatsby's high society. Adaptations have been made for both television and the big screen but none of them have succeeded in nailing what makes the book so tantalisingly surreal and, well, great. Late next year a new production of The Great Gatsby will have been completed and ready for release, Leonardo DiCaprio is our Gatsby, Toby Maguire is Carraway, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy. These three characters are the core of the story as the events and the emotions of the novel come from or are caused by them. Nick Carraway, after fighting in the First World War and graduating from Yale decides its best to move east to open his own business, he moves to West Egg, Long Island where he encounters a mysterious mansion not too far from where he is settled. Many nights there are parties that last until the sun rises and it isn't long before Nick is invited to one of these luxurious events, it is here then that he forms a friendship with the owner, Jay Gatsby. Nick later discovers that Gatsby had known and loved his second cousin Daisy years ago and asks Nick to set up a meeting, as the story develops we learn (or so we trust) more and more about Gatsby's past and his claim to riches.
Fitzgerald's novel is concerned with the American dream, the strive for wealth and ownership that will apparently fulfil us and complete us. The story takes place during the roaring 1920s, the golden jazz era where the post-war youth now known as the 'lost generation' try to find joy and meaning in their lives. Like Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, The Great Gatsby shows the disillusionment felt by the characters after the first great war and the need for something, anything to feel content with life.
Gatsby's mansion is nearly always bustling with people, his parties are extravagant and lavish but he doesn't know a soul there. The people he surrounds himself with don't know him either, as a mysterious man whose past is unknown his guests produce nasty accusations about how Gatsby gained his wealth and make up stories to tarnish his persona and his riches, the riches they are more than happy to feed off of. Gatsby surrounds himself with these bottom feeders just so he's not alone, from the outside Gatsby's mansion seems as though it belongs to the most popular and loved man on earth but the cold truth is that no one loves him and he only care for one person, Daisy.
One of the most surreal recurring moments in the book is the mysterious green light that is described when Nick first sees Gatsby. At this point in the story Nick isn't even aware of who he's observing. This green light crops up a few times in the narrative and has since become one of the most talked about aspects and point for analysis in the book. The green light comes from the other side of the bay where Daisy lives, Gatsby stands at his dock and stares into it, almost reaching out for it. The light represents all that Gatsby longs for in his life, through his rise to wealth after his quest for the 'American dream' Gatsby thinks this will get him all he desires, of course such isn't life and materialism leads him to ruin.
(Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann)
Many have jeered and complained that Baz Lurhmann will be directing The Great Gatsby, this perhaps wasn't helped by Martin Scorsese being attached for some time and dropping out. Lurhmann could be the man for the job; he has an exuberant over the top style that will be perfect for Nick's journey into the lavish wealthy world of Jay Gatsby. The surreal aspects I have touched upon surely won't intimidate or be neglected by Luhrmann. The film must capture Gatsby as both a godlike enigma and also towards the end a tragic and unfortunate character, a job that DiCaprio and Luhrmann should be fully up for. Fitzgerald's writing makes the mundane seem electric and heightened, when he describes someone just walking into a room or perhaps a characters' demeanour or their choice of clothing his descriptions are just so inspiring that even the simplest of action seems so exciting. This heightened reality that Fitzgerald has created must be translated to the screen in order to bring The Great Gatsby to life, and I say it again, Baz Luhrmann could be the right director to do it so let's keep hoping of greatness.